DON'T GET CAUGHT
You've arrived in what
will be your new home for the next semester. You take
a deep breath and admire the beauty of your new
surroundings. After all of the planning, the long
flight and clearing customs, you've finally made it.
But before you rent a moped for a trip around town
after class, you realize that you still need to worry
about something - money.
Studying abroad takes a lot of preparation and a
lot of money, but a few simple precautions before you
leave home will save you some trouble down the road.
Here are several tips that won't leave you being
caught penniless in a foreign locale.
"It's a good idea to have some cash currency of the
country you're traveling through," said Mark Giddens a
Kiwi now working in Los Angeles. Big cities are fairly
worry-free but tiny towns and villages with
owner-operated businesses can be another story. "Some
small shops and markets won't even accept traveler's cheques." If you don't have time to exchange some
money into the local currency, the best currencies to
pack with you are U.S. Dollars.
The best way to withdraw money from an ATM is by using
a debit card. This money is immediately deducted from
your bank account and you won't be charged interest.
However be sure to find out from your bank before
leaving whether or not you will have to pay an
additional fee to get different currency. Keep in mind
too, that the instructions on the machine may be in
the language of the country you're studying in. It
might be wise to learn a few key phrases before your
Be aware of these three things when using an
overseas ATM machine:
1. Your card must have access to the Cirrus
network. Check to see if the logos on your card match
those displayed on the ATM machine.
2. ATM charges can be costly so minimize your fees by
minimizing your transactions. Check with your bank
before leaving to see if additional fees will be
charged for overseas transactions.
3. Be aware of how much you're taking out. ATMs have
daily limits on how much you can withdraw regardless
of how much money is in your account.
Be prepared for the unexpected. "I had problems
with ATMs because my Visa card wasn't accepted
everywhere - even machines that carried their logo
rejected the transactions," said Jan van den Broek,
who traveled to Taiwan and Singapore. "After that
experience, I decided that I would have some emergency
cash on me before I got on the plane, and when using
the ATM, I'd be sure to get a sufficient amount
because you never know when your card, or anything
else is going to act up!"
Throughout the world, Visa and Mastercard are the most
widely acceptable credit cards. American Express and
Diner's Club are also accepted in some countries.
To be safe never just assume that you can use your
plastic to pay, always ask first. One benefit to
carrying a credit card is that in addition to being
covered for emergencies you didn't budget for, you can
also use them like a debit card to get cash advances
from ATMs when credit is not accepted. Be aware
though, that you will be charged interest on the
amount you withdraw from the moment you make the
You should also make copies of all your credit
cards and carry these copies away from the originals,
along with contact phone numbers for all of your
credit cards and debit cards. This information will
make it easier to get your credit cards cancelled and
Become familiar with the local currency and get over
the fact that it isn't like yours at home. Also,
separate your larger bills from your smaller bills so
that you won't have to fumble around to pay for those
"I think the toughest part, at least in London, was
the exchange rate," said Karen McInnes of Littleton
Colorado. "For example, I'd go to McDonald's and get a
Happy Meal which would cost 2 pounds, and I'd think
'cool, it's the same as at home'. But then it'd dawn
on me that since it was 2 pounds, I was paying $3 for
it. At least by being there for awhile I was able to
start thinking strictly in Sterling rather than
constantly converting ... that's when it got easy."
Traveler's Cheques are insured which means that if
$400 worth of travelers cheques are stolen from your
accommodations, $400 worth are replaced. You are not
out any money- which is a very good thing when on a
student budget. Although the exchange rate for
travelers' cheques maybe a bit lower than for cash,
most students consider it worth it just for the added
When you use travelers' cheques remember to:
1. Sign all of your cheques before you leave the
2. Keep track of the cheques you use.
3. Store your cheques in separate places.
4. Call American Express or your provider immediately
if you discover any have been stolen.
Overseas banks are always a safe place to exchange
money for obvious reasons. Just be aware of their
hours of operation and expect to wait in line. But the
one sure fire way to make sure you're not caught
penniless overseas is to never carry your Travelers
Cheques', ATM card, credit card and cash all in one